Monday, March 23, 2009
Carmel on the Case: To Catch a Thief
People are fed up these days with everything from government bailouts to burglaries, so, when one man found his stolen property for sale on the Internet, he set out to catch a thief. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has this special assignment report, which we warn you contains some violent scenes.
WSVN -- It was a chilly morning when this SUV pulled into a Hollywood shopping center parking lot, but things were about to heat up. In the back of the SUV truck: tailgates. The driver hoped to sell one to Gus, the man in the hat who asked us to use only his first name. Gus arranged the meeting after he found what he believed to be the stolen tailgate from his truck being sold on eBay. He says his local police department in Western Broward County didn't help.
Gus: "They weren't able to do anything else, so I called him, and I set it up so that we could meet here today and make the transaction."
The seller used the eBay Internet ID of get-rich-in-08, but this encounter would end with him busted in '09. Gus's friend distracted the seller, while Gus made sure the tailgate was his.
Gus: "I went inside the truck, I used my key and I opened the lock."
Carmel Cafiero: "Oh, my God!"
It got very ugly. Gus punched the man who was later identified as Blake Davis and kicked him not once, not twice but three times. Gus later told me Davis started it.
Carmel Cafiero: "It got kind of violent here. What happened? At first, as soon as I saw that he came back at me, and he pushed me, and in self defense I struck him."
Gus and his friend tried to handcuff Davis, but they couldn't get the cuffs on. Police say the two men took a huge risk.
Manny Marino: "And, at some point it could have turned tragic for him, especially if the person was armed, and trying to do something like that and trying to take someone into custody on your own is just so inherently dangerous that it should be left to us."
When Hollywood Police arrived, 28-year-old Blake Davis, who was not armed, was arrested and charged with the theft of the tailgate. Gus showed police how his key fit in the lock.
Gus: "This is my proof right here."
"And what did he say to you when you said this is mine?"
Gus: "A friend of his sold it to him for $100."
Davis will now have to explain himself to a judge or jury.
Judge: "Mr. Davis, you are charged with grand theft in the first degree. I'll enter your plea of not guilty."
After court, Davis's mother told me he bought the tailgate from another Internet site. Davis declined an interview but did say he is street smart, but police say it's not smart to be a vigilante. Even though this incident ended with no one seriously injured, officers say if you set out to "Catch a Thief" it could easily backfire.
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